The Loggia of Cupid and Psyche: Mythological Frescoes by Raphael and Others
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
The Loggia of Cupid and Psyche, Villa Farnesina.
Agostino Chigi’s Villa Farnesina (a luxurious summer villa belonging to the wealthy banker) houses some of the most impressive frescoes of the Italian High Renaissance. Beyond the Loggia of Galatea, featuring Raphael’s infamous Triumph of Galatea fresco, you will find the Loggia of Cupid and Pysche, a large spacious loggia featuring mythological frescoes that will take your breath away.
The loggia’s vault ceiling is decorated with animated frescoes that were executed by Raphael and his workshop in the year 1518. They represent episodes from the myth of Psyche that is narrated in Apuleius’s Golden Ass, a 2nd century text that became very popular in the 15th century, particularly when invoking nuptial imagery.
The two central fictive tapestries of the ceiling depict the Council of the Gods, and the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, a scene of celebration and banqueting that is so appropriate to a summer villa. The rest of the vault is bursting with colourful scenes featuring flora, fauna, and countless divinities in dynamic and expressive poses. Raphael and his team have transformed the vault into a fictive pergola, decorated with opulent hanging festoons featuring all kinds of vegetation, fruit, and vegetables, thus bringing the luscious gardens of the property into the villa itself.
Originally, this loggia actually served as the principal entrance to the villa. Look carefully! The vault frescoes feature more than 50 different types of animals and around 170 different types of plants found all over the world.
While Raphael was responsible for the design and conception of the frescoes, they were actually mostly completed by numerous workshop assistants including Giulio Romano, Giovanni da Udine, and Giovanni Francesco Penni.
These frescoes are bursting with movement and life, and simultaneously, an undeniable sense of balance, harmony, and composure that is so very typical of Italian High Renaissance art. Designed primarily for the delight and pleasure of Agostino Chigi and his visitors, the frescoes are incredibly playful. For example, look out for subtle sexual messages that are hidden in the painted festoons; some more explicit than others, such as the oddly shaped cucumber and fig just above Mercury’s left hand.
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